On a beautiful spring day at West Marion Elementary School, teacher Tori Riggi is at home in her fourth grade classroom.
But the Army veteran who served in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm remembers when she left the military, without a clue what her future held.
"I just started working different jobs, and just realized I really enjoyed being around children," Riggi recalls.
Now a longtime teacher in the McDowell County school system, Riggi says she still brings some of what she learned in the Army to school.
"It does help me have a strong classroom management, helping them stay on track, trying to limit the playing and keep them engaged," says Riggi.
Fourth grader Lincoln remembers what he was like before Ms. Riggi's class. "Probably was more of a troublemaker, just a little bit. But, she stopped that!" laughed Lincoln.
Esmeralda says she didn't know a word of English before Ms. Riggi tutored her. But five years later, she's thriving.
"I didn't know the math problems, like, I didn't understand," Esmeralda remembers. "But Ms. Riggi, she was a good teacher, and helped me on the math problems I didn't understand."
Riggi says she's grateful for the supportive culture of West Marion Elementary.
Principal Nakia Carson is a Marine veteran. Most of all she appreciates her students.
"They make me a better person," she said.
Lincoln says the same about his teacher.
"When I see people doing the wrong thing, I used to just jump right in and do it, because it looked fun or something. Now, I just try to stay away from it," fourth grader said.